Sun flares with Solaris 10

Sun Microsystems has invested millions of dollars and 3000 engineering years to create its latest operating system -Solaris 10. While some may see it as just another upgrade, the vendor believes it has built the best OS ever.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  January 3, 2005

|~|sun_left_Hein_kumar_right_t.jpg|~|(L to R) Hein Vandermerwe, Sun Microsystems MENA’s senior data centre architect with Kumar Mani, sales manager at Tech Access. |~|Sun Microsystems has introduced the latest version of its flagship operating system (OS) to the Middle East. With more than 600 new features, the vendor claims Solaris 10 provides up to 80% more system utilisation and is capable of supporting the latest 32-and 64-bit platforms with guaranteed backward binary compatibility.

Designed for modern data centre workloads, the OS is also the vendor’s fastest operating system ever released. According to Sun, Solaris 10 is 40% faster than version 9.0 in terms of web server performance.

The OS also boasts military grade security previously only available in Trusted Solaris, while Sun also claims Solaris 10 offers the industry’s best Unix-to-Linux interoperability through the Solaris Linux Application Environment, formerly known as Project Janus.

The vendor has also made enhancements to Solaris 10 by including DTrace, ZFS, virtualisation containers, interoperability and autonomic healing, which are all designed to address core issues taxing data centres.

“Solaris 10 (S10) is the most anticipated product release in the history of Sun and is the result of more than US$500 million in research and development, demonstrating the result of more than 3000 engineering years to create the best OS on planet earth,” says Hein Vandermerwe, Sun Microsystems MENA’s senior data centre architect.

In terms of hardware, Solaris will run on all the major architectures, including Ultra SPARC, SPARC-64, x86 and AMD Opteron systems from over 270 vendors including Dell, HP, IBM and Fujitsu Siemens.

“Customers don’t need to purchase or upgrade hardware. By just upgrading the OS alone, the system becomes much faster. Even applications up to seven years old [from Solaris 2.6] will run on S10 without any changes... We are not expecting customers to leave everything or change anything on the client side or the server side,” says Vandermerwe.

In addition to the features found within the OS itself, Sun is also delivering universal support for development tools and Java development platforms for Solaris 10, enabling developers to immediately launch their enterprise development projects using Java.

Sun has already announced 140 business software applications for Solaris 10, which adds to the 12,000 plus applications already available to Solaris users. As such, Sun and its regional channel development provider, Tech Access, believes the regional market will be able to embrace Solaris 10 immediately.

“We’ve seen tremendous interest in Solaris 10 with more than 5000 downloads of [the OS] across the region so far. More than 30 regional ISVs and 7000 ISVs globally are ready to ship applications for S10,” says Kumar Mani, sales manager at Tech Access.

The 5000 downloads to which Mani refers have occurred due to the different development model Sun has embraced in building Solaris 10. Rather than keep the OS under wraps until its release date, the vendor has actively sought end user and developer input.

This has been harvested through the US$99 Solaris Express Subscription programme, which Sun announced seven months ago. By signing up for the 12-month subscription, customers were able to work with the OS and provide feedback to the development team.

Such an approach in itself makes Solaris market ready from day one, says Vandermerwe. “We changed the very model in which Solaris 10 is developed. The beta version of Solaris has been available for more than a year. It’s like a pre-beta, where customers and ISVs get used to all the new functionality and as it gets toward a production date, they can deploy it straightaway because they have been exposed to it,” he explains.||**|||~|yasser_hp.jpg|~|Yasser Ragaei, category & marketing manager, business critical systems, HP Middle East. |~|In addition to the way Solaris 10 was developed, Sun’s pricing model for the new OS has also been overhauled. Rather than paying for the product itself, or having to buy it with a proprietary SPARC-chip powered server, Sun will allow users to download it free of charge and charge them for support instead. Annual support starts at US$120 per CPU, but goes up to US$360 for premium 24/7 support.

Sun’s new pricing model raises the issue of free versus commercial software. While vendors such as Microsoft charge a tidy sum for its OS licenses and throw in free support, updates, patches and service packs, Linux vendors and now Sun give the software away and make their money on support. Furthermore, unlike Linux — where there are no development costs — Sun has spent more than US$500 million in R&D on Solaris 10.

Combining this with the vendor’s US$50 for its Linux based Java Desktop System (JDS) and US$100 per employee per year for its Java Enterprise System (JES), Sun’s continued give-away could be seen as financial suicide.

However, Sun disagrees and believes customers will sign up for commercial support and pay for additional reliability through SLAs. Certainly an enterprise that can download a seven-gigabyte OS off the web is unlikely to operate a computing environment where guaranteed support is irrelevant. In addition to support fees from existing customers, Sun also believes it will make a profit by attracting new customers.

“By making it free the entry-level barriers for new and existing customers to upgrade or adopt Solaris 10 is zero or minimal. As a revenue model, it won’t change anything for us. Earlier we bundled Solaris in our SPARC servers and customers were never charged for it,” says Vandermerwe.

This aggressive move to a more open source way of working also puts Sun in an increasingly delicate position with Novell’s Suse Linux 9.1 (and Red Hat), which Sun OEMs on its x86 servers. However, Novell doesn’t quite see it this way.

“We rarely compete with Sun in the OS area. We do compete on other areas, but not in this space. Sun is not a major competition for us as it is in its own league in software and hardware. Sun’s positioning is a bit different than where Linux is heading for,“ says Hazem Bayado, technical director at Novell Middle East.

While Sun is busy touting Solaris 10 as the best OS on planet earth, the vendor’s competitors have also been busy. HP, which ships HP-UX 11i, is beefing up its virtualisation portfolio by providing a common management view for the HP Virtual Server Environment (VSE) across its platforms. Furthermore, HP doesn’t agree with Sun’s technical superiority claims.

“Sun is making a big noise for virtualisation and Linux interoperability. We are surprised at this since we have been offering these features for a long time... We offer these features not only on Unix but also across our OS platforms. They are either bundled or come for a nominal fee,” says Yasser Ragaei, category & marketing manager, business critical systems, HP Middle East.

Red Hat isn’t keeping quiet either. The Linux vendor is refreshing its entire workstation and server line with the launch of Red Hat 4. “Sun has made previous attempts on Linux through JDS but that didn’t take off. Although Sun has shipped a lot of Linux machines they are losing a lot on the Solaris front. What it is trying to do is bring users back to Solaris.

Through Solaris 10, Sun is endorsing the open source model, which confirms what Red Hat has been doing for years,” says Tewfik Zitouni, managing director, Opennet MEA, Red Hat’s Middle East partner.

Interestingly, Microsoft, which dominates the OS market, appears to have fallen behind in the most recent rash of launches. It has not unveiled a new server OS since Windows Server 2003 nearly two years ago, and its next major release, Longhorn, has only a tentative launch date of Q3'06 or Q4'06 at present. With no major OS update due in the interim, this could give the global Linux distributors, Unix vendors and Sun with Solaris 10 enough time increase their in market penetration. ||**||

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